Sept 2002

What a refreshing change to see huge numbers of people united by the thrill of the world cup. Strangers are smiling at each other, exchanging views, beeping their car horns, giving the thumbs up. There is colour, noise and enthusiasm and a zest for life. Before that we had the pageant of the Jubilee with more crowds and flag waving and a wonderful sense of pure joy, this is all a much needed time of mass festivity after months of particularly depressing world events and, of course for some, daily events trudge on; life seems an endless cycle of oppression and devastation. Walking along an unspoilt and wild surf beech in Portugal, the tumultuous Atlantic Ocean to my left and 300 ft shear cliffs to my right, I mused on the state our world is in now and on the way it must have been; that beech probably hasn’t change much in thousands of years and one thing struck me particularly strongly: it was never meant to be like this, people elated and happy just now and again and then struggling for most of the time, so life is just drudge with rare bursts of fun. God created such a beautiful world but he intended it to be for everyone. If we had understood that right from the start we would not be in this sorry mess today, with three quarters of the world living in unacceptable poverty watching the remaining quarter eating far too much; wallowing in self obsession and dissatisfaction and all of us terrified of mushroom clouds and meteorites. Soon after my walk along the beach, we drove through a small village off the beaten track and there where two very, very elderly Portuguese ladies; tiny, dressed in black from head to foot bent double carrying a huge load on their backs, and a heavy pail full of water and I had quite a sense of guilt at being the elite in that case. It’s those who have little and share their all who have understood what God intended for his world.

Two weeks ago today, June the 15th, Christine was tragically found dead in her home near Blackburn. Christine had been a regular visitor to St Anne’s house right from the time we began the drop-in nine years ago. Over the years, we as a community have mourned the loss of many friends here; our clients being made up of vulnerable and fragile people; it is always heart breaking and this is no exception. As always when such tragedies hit us, memories start to flood in. Nine years is a long time and momentous happenings are a jolt to the grey cells. What fills me with awe is how much life has been lived here over those years; so much life, so many sad moments and wonderful moments; incredibly moving moments; difficult times but above all so much warmth and love, laughter and sharing.

Christine was such a character, there was never a dull moment when she came in. She had a beautiful simple faith too, she was the first person in twenty years to call me sweetheart! Many hugs and tears have been shared with her heart-broken friends, many of whom have led difficult lives, they have little materialistically but the feeling they live out God’s command to love one another and share all you have, comes over in a really powerful way; Rest In Peace Christine. Death is such a leveller isn’t it? No one is ever, ever more or less dead than anyone else, regardless of the facades that life may or may not have built for us to hide behind. The wonderment of what comes next is for all of us, each and everyone. Thank God we will no longer have the free will we had here with which to destroy everything. During the funeral of the Queen Mother, which we watched as a community the Lord’s prayer was recited in St Paul’s Cathedral. I looked at one of our Reconcile Project Clients, a very broken young man with a chequered history who had come to us straight from prison. He was sitting with his head down in his hands reciting the Lord’s prayer along with the medaled and be-hatted elite in the Cathedral; it was one of those golden moments where God draws us all into the palm of his hand, hats and medals scars and wounds; they all pale into insignificance because we are all in the grip of the awesome infinity that is God; but we also have the free will to decide, as a human race, just how long or short will live the joy engendered by the World Cup and many other triggers of mass exhilaration. We have the capacity and the wherewithall, why do we not have the will?

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